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Quantico works only because of Priyanka

Last updated on: October 05, 2015 17:38 IST

Quantico isn’t a show Chopra happens to be on, but rather a show that belongs to Chopra, Raja Sen says.

The Quantico cast

It begins with an Om bracelet.

Priyanka Chopra lies facedown in rubble as the camera pulls out to show us the remnants of a massive explosion.

Her face is pointed toward the debris but her wrist rises steadfast above it all, Om glinting with suitable exoticness and twin purpose: those who don’t know better, which means most of America, can consider Chopra an Arab or an Islamic militant, which is good for story purposes because it makes them automatically assume she may be the guilty bomber. Secondly, the millions cheerleading from back in India can see that she’s still our very own Chopra, Tupac-crush notwithstanding. India’s little daughter.

Quantico, which premiered on Indian television over the weekend, is a preposterous but entertaining show, one that throws up a huge twist every time things seem like they might slow down.

It is about Chopra and her classmates in an FBI training facility and also about which of these classmates set off a huge bomb.

The classmates -- diverse, young and fit enough to have walked out of a Benetton advert -- are, however, not the story here.

Neither is the bomb.

The story is Chopra, and the entire serial goes out of its way to give her more room: to emote, to smirk, to cry about injustice and to win over the audience.

This may have been a misstep had Chopra been a less-assured performer, but she has always been an actress who flowers under the spotlight, and she swallows all the chances Quantico gives her with gusto -- if, occasionally, a few spoonfuls too many of it.

Her character, Alex Parrish, is a tough, lucid girl who seems to know what she wants, even if the pilot episode frequently leaves her with her mouth open, showing off how dumbfounded she is to know the size of the mess she’s in.

But everyone’s smarter than the Bureau.

The FBI in Quantico is depicted as an imbecilic organisation, the kind of intelligence bureau caught unawares not just by one of their cherry-picked recruits, but by basic facts that escape them frequently, like, for example, the number of recruits that are supposed to be on the base.

Or in one room.

This, I must concede, is refreshing to see, a bureau of buffoonery making for quite a change from the usual cartoonishly skilled agency Americans like to boast of.

Would I watch this show if not for Priyanka?

Of course not.

It's nutty and stupid and childish and there is far, far too much great television right now.

The Golden Age of Television has enabled with it the Golden Age Of The Fear Of Missing Out, and there’s only that much we can binge before we admit we aren’t watching everything.

However, I do admit it’s thrilling to watch Chopra shatter the fibreglass ‘crossover’ ceiling and make inroads onto American screens in such imperious fashion.

Quantico isn’t a show Chopra happens to be on, but rather a show that belongs to Chopra, and watching her serviced this flatteringly feels good. Chopra’s character may not be guilty but the actress sure has gifted us a rollicking guilty pleasure.

Keep at it, Priyanka, and may you get to kick lots of ass.

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Raja Sen / Rediff.com in Mumbai
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